Political Parties

Guyana Table of Contents

People's National Congress

The PNC was formed in 1957 when Forbes Burnham broke away from the PPP. The PNC represents the country's Afro-Guyanese community and many of Guyana's intellectuals. The PNC was the main partner in the coalition government formed in 1964 and has been the outright winner of every election held since then. The party held fiftythree seats after the 1980 elections. After the 1985 elections, the PNC held fifty-four seats in the National Assembly--forty-two elected seats and all of the twelve appointed seats. The party came under the leadership of Desmond Hoyte following the death of Forbes Burnham in 1985.

Ideologically, the PNC has swung from socialism to middle-of- the-road capitalism several times. Although Burham professed leftist views, the party originally adopted a procapitalist policy as an alternative to the PPP's socialism and to attract members of the Afro-Guyanese middle class. In the mid-1970s, Burnham stated that the PNC was socialist and committed to the nationalization of foreign-owned businesses and to government control of the economy. In the late 1980s, Executive President Hoyte declared that his predecessor's policies had bankrupted the country and that the PNC would again encourage private investment.

People's Progressive Party

Guyana's oldest political party, the PPP, was founded in 1950 by Cheddi Jagan as a means to push for independence. After the 1961 elections, however, the party came to represent almost exclusively the Indo-Guyanese community. A long-time Marxist-Leninist, Jagan declared in 1969 that the PPP was a communist party and advocated state ownership of all industry. The PPP won elections in 1953, 1957, and 1961, but its leftist policies led to internal unrest and opposition from the British colonial authorities. The PPP had ten National Assembly seats after the 1980 election and in the 1985 elections won eight seats.

Other Political Groups

Concerned that the PPP had been coopted by the more conservative PNC in the early 1970s, a multiethnic group of politicians and intellectuals formed the Working People's Alliance (WPA) in 1973. Originally a loose organization, the WPA became a formal political party in 1979 after three of its leaders were imprisoned by the Burnham government. Its membership is drawn from the Indo-Guyanese and Afro-Guyanese communities, and the party advocates moderately leftist policies. The WPA refused to participate in the 1980 elections, charging that they would be rigged, but won one seat in the 1985 elections.

A small conservative party, the United Force (UF) was founded in 1960 by a wealthy Portuguese businessman to represent Guyana's business community. It also draws support from Guyana's Roman Catholic Church and the small Portuguese, Chinese, and Amerindian populations. The party won two seats in both the 1980 and 1985 elections.

After the 1985 elections, five parties--the PPP, the WPA, the small Democratic Labour Movement, the People's Democratic Movement, and the National Democratic Front--formed the Patriotic Coalition for Democracy (PCD). The PCD promised to push for fair elections and oppose PNC manipulation of the electoral process.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress